what is MGTOW

The ‘Men Going Their Own Way’ movement is the Taliban of the manosphere

But don’t be complacent: their virulent misogyny is going mainstream

Out on the wilder shores of the manosphere, they talk constantly about the red pill and the blue pill. Derived from a scene in The Matrix, taking the blue pill lets you live your life in blissful ignorance of the monstrous reality of the wicked world, while necking the red pill opens your eyes to reveal the awful truth. Dream world or real world: it’s your choice. As rebel leader Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) explained it to Neo (Keanu Reeves) in 1999, “You take the blue pill, the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”

But out in the manosphere – far too often a digital sewer for 50,000 shades of misogyny – “taking the red pill” means that a guy has opened his eyes to the “bitter truth” about women. Namely: women are not simply pieces of meat; women are pieces of poisoned meat and they will lie about you, end your career, suck your bank account dry, wreck your life and send you to a cell with some other blameless soul that got on the wrong side of the sisters, like that nice Harvey Weinstein. “The red pill represents a new phase in online misogyny,” wrote Donna Zuckerberg, author of Not All Dead White Men. Red-pill believers, says Zuckerberg, “not only mock and belittle women; they also believe that in our society men are oppressed by women”.

From the incels (involuntary celibates) to the PUAs (pick-up artists), nobody on the manosphere is quite as obsessed with the red-pill concept as the boys in MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way), who aspire to live their lives without contact with women. The MGTOW (pronounced “mig-tau”) who achieve total enlightenment are said to be “going monk”, which does what it says on the tin. Going monk is the black belt in giving up women.

Some MGTOW have platonic relationships with women, while others keep transactions strictly commercial, with sex workers. But what you notice about all of them is that they never stop talking about women. Men sharing their lives with girlfriends, wives and daughters never devote this much time to thinking, talking and obsessing about women. At first glance, the official Men Going Their Own Way website (mgtow.com) looks like a cross between a trailer for an action movie and a cry for help. “Ejecting silly preconceptions and cultural definitions of what a man is,” promises the MGTOW mission statement, “refusing to bow, serve and kneel for the opportunity to be treated like a disposable utility.” Fair enough. And for a moment you can imagine a digital universe where men are uplifted by sharing the secrets of their soul. But it took, oh, about 90 seconds for MGTOW to turn this brother’s stomach. “Put a bitch in her place?” asks one forum. “Unleash the beef.”

A few sad, embittered losers in a dusty nook of the internet? If only! One MGTOW vlogger has had more than 90 million views for his YouTube videos – including “Criticise Her & She Will Destroy Your Career” – while that glossy MGTOW website has knocking on for 800,000 replies to more than 50,000 anti-women topics. That’s a lot of misogynistic madcaps. “MGTOW resemble men’s rights activists (MRAs) more than incels and PUAs,” wrote Laura Bates, author of Men Who Hate Women. “Both groups believe that women pose an immediate threat to all men. MRAs believe that women are so unfaithful and untruthful that they often force men to raise other men’s children, thus financially ‘cuckolding’ them. MGTOW believe that women are extremely likely to make false accusations of sexual and domestic violence, in order to damage men socially, steal their money or even have them jailed.” But the MGTOW – and the men who lap up their vicious woman-hating crap – are more than another catchy manosphere acronym. They tap into a genuine terror of men who have spent their formative years watching women through the distorting mirror of pornography, who have consumed far too much music where women are routinely referred to as “bitches” and who, crucially, see in Me Too not a brave new world where sexual bullies finally get the punishment they deserve, but a world where the woman is always believed.

Porn on tap, bitch-slapping beats and a virulent Me Too backlash: did we really imagine men would be improved by all that?

Former US vice president Mike Pence proclaimed that he never dines alone with a woman who is not his wife, while an orthopaedic surgeon in Chicago told the New York Times that he was never alone with a female colleague. “My livelihood is on the line,” he said. “If someone in your hospital says you had inappropriate contact with this woman, you get suspended for an investigation and your life is over.”

Men who have never heard of MGTOW know the feeling. In a post-Me Too survey in the US, 27 per cent of men polled said that they now avoided one-to-one meetings with women. And in this culture of dread between the genders, we all lose. Rachel Sturm, a professor at Wright State university who worked on the research, said, “When men say, ‘I’m not going to hire you. I’m not going to send you travelling. I’m going to exclude you from outings,’ those are steps back.”

The MGTOW are sorry excuses for men, but what they represent is a profound shift in the way men and women relate. We are increasingly afraid to work with each other, to flirt with each other, to love each other. We are becoming terrified of what, not so very long ago, was the most natural thing in the world.